Company: Radio One
Position: Founder, Chairperson of the Board and Secretary
Catherine L. Hughes is the founder and chairperson of Radio One, Inc., the largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. It is the first African American company to dominate several major markets simultaneously in radio history and possesses the first woman owned radio station to rank #1 in any major market.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1947, Catherine Hughes attended Creighton University and University of Nebraska but did not graduate. Around 1969 she began working at KOWH, a black radio station in Omaha. In 1971, Hughes moved to Washington, DC and became a lecturer at the newly established School of Communications at Howard University. In 1973 she became sales director at WHUR-FM. Two years later she became the stations general manager, boosting sales revenue to $3.5 million from $300,000. In 1975, Hughes became the first female vice president and general manager of a station in the nation's capital and created the format known as the "Quiet Storm" the most listened to nighttime radio format, heard in over 50 markets nationally. In 1980 she purchased her first radio station, WOL-AM (DC), creating Radio One.
To make ends meet she was forced to give up her apartment and lived at the station. Over time, she made the station profitable, and her own talk show with yet another innovative format " 24 hour talk from a black perspective." With the theme, "Information is power," became a hit on talk radio in the nation's capital. By purchasing stations in other cities the company eventually became the nation's largest black owned radio chain.
The Washington Post describes Hughes as " the voice of the Black Community". Her stations now reach over 18 million Black listeners daily. She is committed to keeping Black broadcast ownership alive and her goal of building a broadcast empire with a solid foundation in the African American community has come to fruition. The results have been an increase in revenue and opportunities for minorities and women. Hughes currently has more than 1,500 Black broadcasters on staff at Radio One, Inc.
Hughes' pioneering work has led Essence to name her one of "100 Who Have Changed the World," and Regardies and Washingtonian named her one of the " 100 Most Powerful and Influential Persons." Radio Ink continues to list Hughes as one of the " 20 Most Influential Women in Radio" and Ebony cites her as one of the " 10 most Powerful Women in Black America." A trademark of Hughes is her company's extensive involvement in community affairs. Her dedication to minority communities, entrepreneurial spirit, and mentoring of women are manifested in every aspect of her work and life.
Though Radio One, Inc. is now a public company, for Catherine Hughes the foundation of Radio is still based on the spirit of a family that strives to serve as the heart of community, as well as the pulse of urban radio.
In 1995 Catherine Hughes received an honorary doctorate from Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, and in 1998 was the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Achievement in Radio Awards. Other honors include the first annual Black History Hall of Fame Award and the Prudential Media Black Woman on Wall Street Award. She has also been named by Essence as one of "100 Who Have Changed the World."
“What you need to succeed is knowledge that goes far beyond the degree”